Everyone here at Daily Grindhouse would happily recommmend you rush to see filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier‘s previous features, MURDER PARTY and BLUE RUIN. The latter film in particular made a big impression on many critics and movie-goers in 2014, when it made many best-of-the-year lists. This morning, A24 released the trailer for Jeremy Saulnier’s latest film, GREEN ROOM, which was a smash at 2015’s Fantastic Fest. Three of our writers were there to see it, and after the trailer below, their [mostly spoiler-free] reviews are collected.
At this point it’s a given that a Jeremy Saulnier film is going to look good, but really everything about this trailer is exciting and effective, even the spooky cover of “Bad Moon Rising.” I didn’t personally need to see Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots team up again after the FRIGHT NIGHT remake, but I’m sure having reedy protagonists will be a virtue in a siege thriller pitting them against fearsome villains such as a grisly-looking Patrick Stewart (who clearly came to play) and the super-talented Macon Blair, who was so impressive in both MURDER PARTY and BLUE RUIN. It really looks like the most aggro remake of MASTERMINDS possible.
But hey, I’m the only one in this post who hasn’t seen GREEN ROOM yet. You want to hear from the experts. Here, in no particular order, are Matt Wedge, Mike Vanderbilt, and Jason Coffman. Take it away, gents!
Next up was what turned out to be the best film I saw at the Fest. That it was written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, who made BLUE RUIN, one of my favorite films of 2014, is no coincidence.
GREEN ROOM (2015, United States) is such a benign title for one of the most visceral, brutal films I’ve seen in years. Equal parts siege film, war film, and survival horror, Saulnier grounds his violent tale in the real world, never giving into any plot point that feels fake.
A young punk band from the Washington D.C. area takes a gig in an out of the way club in the Pacific Northwest. The problem is that the club is owned by Darcy (Patrick Stewart), a white supremacist who employs a number of surly, dangerous skinheads. The band members know better than to willingly put themselves in such a hostile location, but they need the cash for gas money to get back across the country, so they ignore their instincts and play the show. When they stumble across the aftermath of a murder in the titular location, things go from bad to clusterfucked in the blink of an eye.
Trapped in the club by the skinheads who want to kill any and all witnesses to the murder, the band have to figure out a way to fight their way to freedom. Any more description than that would take away from the enjoyment of anyone seeing the film for the first time.
Saulnier builds to the discovery of the murder methodically, but swiftly. He quickly introduces the band members and the various major skinhead characters with brief introductions and then lets the cast fill in the details. Thankfully, the actors playing the band (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner) and the key skinheads (Macon Blair — so brilliant in BLUE RUIN, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstein) commit fully, providing unexpected moments of humor, menace, and conflicted feelings all around. Despite the simplistic logline of “punk band vs. skinheads,” none of the characters feel like caricatures.
Much like the authentic characterizations, the world of GREEN ROOM feels real — especially to anyone who has spent even a little time in or around a band. The grimy club, the cramped van in which the band travels, tiny apartments where they crash, and restaurants where they play gigs, all look and feel lived-in. Saulnier uses these locations to establish a world that is tangible and familiar, making the bursts of violence that follow come off as even more vicious, brutal, and shocking.
I am hesitant to say any more about GREEN ROOM for fear of giving anything away or building it up to unfair expectations. It is an exciting, sometimes heartbreaking piece of skillfully crafted suspense that left me shaking.
While most everyone else was clamoring to get into the secret screening (it ended up being Guillermo Del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK) I made the decision to check out Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up to BLUE RUIN,GREEN ROOM. Judging from the rumblings I heard — punks versus skins, the presence of Patrick Stewart — I was expecting a sort of KILL BILL take on England, perhaps in the 1970s. I was way off.GREEN ROOM features Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat as members of a shitty little punk band, The Ain’t Rights, on a tour that’s going nowhere. Desperate for money, the band takes a gig at a skinhead hangout in the Pacific Northwest, with the promise of $300 to help make their way back to Washington, D.C The show doesn’t go as planned, and our heroes find themselves thrust into a violent confrontation with an army of skinheads and literally no way out.
GREEN ROOM is already a front-runner for my favorite film of the fest. You don’t have to have been in a band to relate to the characters in the film, but it certainly helps. I’ve played in bands for years, and spent time on the road in cramped vans playing shitty shows. I truly understood the camaraderie amongst the band members. They’re drawn with broad strokes which helps the audience cast their own perceptions of perhaps people from their own lives and ending up in a situation that you wouldn’t even comprehend at the beginning of your day. As with BLUE RUIN, Saulnier cribs quite a bit from the Carpenter playbook — particularly ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 — but whereas Carpenter always seemed to have just a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor, a sense of “don’t worry, it’s just light and sound,” inGREEN ROOM the tension is merciless and unrelenting. That’s not to say there isn’t some levity — and it’s quite necessary — but overall the film is absolutely brutal in the best possible way.
Patrick Stewart does not overpower the rest of the younger cast, but his portrayal of the skinhead leader is menacing and completely terrifying in its subtlety. It’s not necessary to make Nazis more evil than they already are, but Stewart pulls it off. Saulnier came from the punk scene in Washington D.C. in the ‘90s and said he was “afraid of Nazis,” — he and his team get everything right with the look and demeanor of the skinhead subculture, which adds a air of authenticity to the proceedings. The screenplay is air-tight, the cinematography is gorgeous, and on top of all that, the practical gore effects will make even the most jaded film fan wince.
Struggling punk band The Ain’t Rights drive 90 miles out of their way for a show promised by a young kid with a podcast, but the gig is canceled. With no other choice, they take the kid’s offer of another paying gig at an isolated club frequented by skinheads. The band arrives and plays their set, but when they’re loading out bassist (Anton Yelchin) stumbles upon a crime scene that club manager (Macon Blair) is trying to cover up. The situation rapidly escalates until the band is trapped in the club’s green room fighting for their lives against a violent neo-nazi group trying to force them out and eliminate all evidence of the crime. Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film, BLUE RUIN, upended revenge film conventions and garnered huge critical acclaim that set expectations impossibly high for GREEN ROOM. Almost unbelievably, GREEN ROOM absolutely meets and very possibly exceeds those expectations. The cast is excellent, and the amazingly detailed production design brings the world of low-rent punk clubs to absolutely convincing life. There’s a lot of violence, but like BLUE RUIN, GREEN ROOM treats its characters and their chances of survival realistically. Saulnier also takes time to draw all the characters well, giving an unexpected twinge of sympathy for even some of the skinheads. Everyone’s stuck in an impossible situation, and compelled to act according to their own personal loyalties and ethics. On top of all this, GREEN ROOM is fast-paced and fun, with plenty of gruesome black comedy. This is one of the best films of the year, period.
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